Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

B.C. Ferries captain attacked by grizzly bear, punches its nose

A short stroll on a beach quickly turned into a desperate fight for survival for a Qualicum Beach man attacked by a grizzly bear that threw him around like a rag doll. Randal Warnock, 57, a B.C.

A short stroll on a beach quickly turned into a desperate fight for survival for a Qualicum Beach man attacked by a grizzly bear that threw him around like a rag doll.

Randal Warnock, 57, a B.C. Ferries captain, said he had been walking on the beach on Brown Island for about 15 minutes on Monday when the young bear attacked.

Warnock, who often beachcombs, said he had just found a boat bumper that he thought might be salvageable and was walking up a bit of an incline on the beach when he heard a “crack.”

“I turned around and about a foot away from where I picked up that buoy, a grizzly bear was in full charge. It just came flying out of the bush and was on me within seconds,” Warnock said.

The bear, which Warnock described as juvenile, a bit bigger and stockier than a black bear, immediately started biting at his left knee.

“I was wearing jeans so the jeans kept sliding on my knee. He punctured my knee once and then let go. He tried a couple of more but it didn’t catch. He sort of shredded that knee — the jeans part of it.

“Then he went to my right leg and got a better hold of my right leg and just started shaking me like crazy. I lost my balance a few times but kept standing up, trying to stay on my feet as much as I could.”

The whole time, Warnock said, he was yelling at the bear, trying to scare him off. At one point, he grabbed a pocket knife from his back pocket but dropped it as the bear swung him around.

Warnock “thought he was a goner” as the bear swung him around by the knee.

He said the animal’s speed, agility and control was mind-boggling.

“I said [to myself]: ‘I’ve got to keep fighting’ and I had an opening so I punched him as hard as I could in the nose.

“He let go, which surprised me. He just stood back two feet on all fours. … He just looked at me like he was trying to decide what to do. His head was sort of bobbing around and he’d lunge a little — six inches ahead, not sure what to do.”

Warnock said he fell back on the bank behind him. He grabbed a log and tried to throw it at the bear. It slipped and dropped in between them and the bear turned and ran away.

Warnock, who captains B.C. Ferries’ MV Nimpkish between Bella Coola and Bella Bella, had been on his way to work — driving his retired fishing boat north for six hours when he decided to anchor as waters were getting a little rough.

Sometime during the encounter with the bear, Warnock lost his cellphone. He considered looking for it, but quickly abandoned the idea as too dangerous.

Instead he limped to his skiff and went back out to his boat, where he bandaged himself up as best he could.

Once back on his boat, he drove for about an hour before he could get radio reception to call the Canadian Coast Guard in Prince Rupert for assistance.

About two hours later he was met by two coast guard vessels that took him to hospital in Port Hardy.

He received 30 stitches — two each to sew up two puncture wounds in his left knee, 22 to close two gashes on his right leg and four on his ring finger.

On reflection Warnock realizes how lucky he is to have survived.

“When he was charging at me at first I thought: ‘Holy shit, is this how it’s going to end?’ ”

Warnock later remembered seeing a bunch of eagles in a tree and thought the bear might have been feeding on a dead seal or sea lion and attacked him to protect its meal.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

— With a file from The Canadian Press